01 August 2017
Gigi Chiying Lam, Royal College of Music student explores 'Pianotrepneurs'- pianists who run successful businesses with Janine Forrester of Bespoke Accompanist.
At Pianotrepeneur we interview pianists who are also successful or start-up entrepreneurs. They share what their job is really like and how other pianists can find something they love to do. This is a tough journey but with the musical talent, dedication, and work ethic to see this career through, there’s no telling where you could go.
Janine Forrester, graduate of Royal College of Music and director of Bespoke Accompanist, shares her stories upon graduation and describes her life as a professional pianist and entrepreneur.
Like many music students, Janine was studying, performing, teaching and paying for ballet class at the same time. ‘I am very fortunate that I teach around 40 students per week, prepare for music exams, perform piano recitals and concertos regularly, accompany colleagues, and also compose for animations and ballet syllabuses.’
Despite the mix of careers, Janine never gave up. ‘I pride myself on being a well-rounded musician and enjoy the variety this brings; every day is different.’
The juxtaposition between her experience as a pianist, accompanist, and composer inspired her to create Bespoke Accompanist. It’s a journey of amalgamating these skills into one idea.
Bespoke Accompanist is an online bespoke music business, which targets instrumentalists, singers and dancers (amateurs and professionals) who are in need of a piano accompaniment recording and who might have limited access to a live accompanist.
Janine has wisely applied web technology which allows her to extend this service to a wide audience. Tracks are expressively played and are suited to the individual’s needs. ‘For example, in the past, clients have requested a slower tempo for practice purposes, or the accompaniment transposed into a higher or lower key (for vocalists), or a slightly amended accompaniment compared with the original. The recording quality is of a live pianist, emailed to the client as an MP3. It is for the individual to use forever after a one-off payment.’
The very efficient work has helped Bespoke Accompanist build up a fast-growing client base.
How did she think of this brilliant business idea?
‘I started Bespoke Accompanist as music colleagues would often complain that finding an accompanist, or even the cost of one, wasn’t always feasible. Ballet teachers would often ask me for recordings of piano pieces, which were tweaked here and there to use during rehearsals. I felt there was a niche, especially around my inner circle!'
Janine has always done extensive research prior to her startups. ‘I found that most of the websites who offered something similar used sequenced recordings, sounding basically like a robot, very angular and unmusical. My recordings are performed live by myself. The quality of the recordings is also very important to me, and I take time editing and enhancing them. Every recording is unique for the individual and is tailored to suit their needs and requests. I feel this creates a personal and special recording.’
To Janine, anyone can set up a business with the right idea, drive and passion for their product. ‘The world’s technology is evolving at an alarming rate and, as musicians, we need to keep up with this and not get left behind! Social media, blogs, your own website, extracts of your work and understanding how to market yourself online are now so crucial on the Internet. It’s exciting and daunting at the same time. People always say, “what a great idea, if only we had known about it ages ago!”
This new service certainly takes piano accompaniment into a new century.
By Gigi Chiying Lam. Gigi is a doctoral student at the Royal College of Music.